My childhood years in Taiwan was short and sweet. I remember drinking fresh soy milk, eating lots of fruits and veggies, a little bit of meat and all meals were cooked by my aunt. After moving back to New York, everything changed. My parents worked long hours so I was given $10 for lunch and dinner. McDonalds was down the street from me and other fast food chains were conveniently located around my neighborhood. I learned early on that the less money I spend on my meals, the more I can spend on what I really wanted, which was candy, chips and sodas. Some days, I would eat ramen for lunch and dinner. Since ramen cost only 30 cents a pack, I was raking in the dough. More money to spend on the latest snack advertised to me on TV (i.e. Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, Oreos and Poptarts come to mind) .
My breakfast looked something like this: Mini Donuts and a grenade drink. Ding Dongs and a bottle of mystic. I wasn’t the only one doing this either because the candy store right by my junior high school was always packed and the snack line at school was always long.
Fast forward 20 years, I’m a Registered Dietitian with more than ten cavities, a root canal and a story to tell. What happened to the days where animals roamed free, fruits and veggies were staples, water quenched our thirst, and food would eventually rot. I look at the ingredients for a box of cookies and cannot believe my eyes. How can this be food? The first ingredient of Ritz crackers is wheat flour (white flour or refined flour)-which is whole wheat flour striped of its nutrients. Micronutrients are then added back in the process of food fortification or enrichment. They’re basically food-like substances with lots of sugar, salt and fat. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good chocolate cupcake too, but definitely on occasion.
A western diet consisting of high intakes of processed meat, red meat, poultry, contaminated seafood, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, high sodium foods, refined grains, dairy products and sugary drinks is making people sick. Pills aren’t helping either. Many government officials, the very people who are suppose to make sure our food is safe (FDA, USDA, EPA) have ties with the food industry. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, my professional group are sponsored by companies like McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Hersey’s, Monsanto, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Dairy Council, General Mill’s, Kellogg’s and Pepsico. You may have seen the explosive report by Michele Simon, disclosing this information in more detail. Luckily, the facebook page, Dietitians for Professional Integrity was created. A place where dietitians can speak out and fight for what’s right.
The one diet or should I say dietary pattern that stand the test of time is one consisting of whole foods – mostly plants, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and sea vegetables. The healthiest and longest living groups of people in the world (Okinawins, Adventists, and Sardinians) eat a plant-based diet, don’t smoke, stay physically active, keep socially engaged and cherish family.
Watch the following talks for inspiration and to find out about how a plant-based diet can fight against chronic diseases and certain cancers. Even acne.